Inadequate control mechanisms led to the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) overpaying P130.99 million in tuition and other school fees to three public higher educational institutions (HEIs), reported Inquirer on Wednesday (August 10).
According to the Commission on Audit's (COA) 2021 audit report, the overpayments went to two state universities and colleges (SUCs) and one local university and college (LUCs), for the academic years 2018/2019 and 2019/2020.
Jose Rizal Memorial State University (JRMSU) received P103.894 million; University of Science and Technology of Southern Philippines (USTP), which got P9.292 million; and Tagaloan Community College (TCC), which received P17.804 million.
The discrepancies were discovered during COA's audit on CHEd’s implementation of Republic Act No. 10931, or the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act. COA compared the amount of tuition and other school fees paid by CHEd, with certified rates.
At JRMSU, the bulk of the disallowances were from additional fees included under development fees, laboratory fees and registration fees, which were deemed “ineligible” under RA 10931.
Over at USTP, the overbilling was down, among others, to the “higher tuition cost per subject billed and paid as against the allowable rate,” and overbilling of computer fees due to the inclusion of library computerization fee.
For TCC, the overbillings were attributed to the billing of fees beyond the allowed frequency or beyond the allowed rate.
Deficient control mechanism
COA noted that the agency disbursed a total of P31.814 billion to SUCs and LUCs in the two academic years in question.
"Overpayments are largely attributable to deficient control mechanism in both the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) and accounting division of CHEd central office to prevent overcharging or detect and capture ineligible fees billed by SUCs and CHED-recognized LUCs," said state auditors.
For example, although the UniFAST initially used a billing checker, CHEd’s billing assistants were "constrained to manually check the free higher education billings of SUCs and CHED-recognized LUCs because there were disallowances … which the billing checker failed to detect."
The CHEd accounting division’s review process was also "inadequate" and “incapable of detecting overbillings” since the pre-audit procedures were limited to checking if the forms were originally signed by the required officials and counter-checking of total amounts.
Separately, some P4.527 billion intended for the implementation of the distance learning program – for school years 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 – was flagged by a COA audit.
The COA noted "deficiencies" in the utilization of these funds from the Basic Education Learning Continuity Plan (BE-LCP), a P16.405-billion fund allocated by Congress to the DepEd for its implementation.